|Egypt||CHRISTIANS BESIEGED AS POPE FLIES IN|
On the eve of the Pope's first visit to the biblical sites of Mount Sinai, Egypt was in the grip of religious violence in which at least 19 Christians have been killed by Muslims.
The Pope's tour has little meaning for the bishop in the ancient Coptic community at al-Kosheh, which lies near the Nile 150 miles south of Cairo. "It will not make any difference to us," said Bishop Anwar Wissa of Baliana as he comforted a woman whose son was hacked to death by a Muslim mob when he refused to renounce his faith. "What we are enduring can happen hundreds of times again."
Neither the Pope, nor the Coptic Pope Shenoda III, whom he is scheduled to meet, nor the Islamic Grand Mufti, Muhammad Sayed Tantawi, could do much to reassure Mrs Hafez and Egypt's 3.5 million other Copts.
The Pope will not make any political statements during his three-day trip, which ends on Saturday at Mount Sinai, believed to be the site of the Burning Bush and where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
The spark which set off the explosion of religious violence was a dispute between a Coptic merchant and an elderly Muslim client who had demanded a refund on some cloth. He insulted her - some said he pushed her - and a fight broke out. Within 24 hours Muslim stalls in the market centre of the village had been destroyed. Soon after, bells rang for Sunday services, which the Muslims interpreted as a call to arms. Within hours 19 Christians and two Muslims lay dead.